Galaxy 07 - Part six - Discovery
Posted By: Jillybean<email@example.com>
Date: 17 December 2003, 3:29 PM
AN: Sigh. Short - and hopefully sweet. Lemme know what you think
"Well, do you want the bad news first? Or the good news?" the UNSC doctor asked.
Daxia stood in what served as a medical bay on the Mordred and steeled herself for the worst. "Bad news first."
The doctor turned back to look through the glass at John-117. "Physically he is in perfect health. Mentally though, his synapses suffered some damage when he was interfaced with Cortana."
"How much?" Daxia whispered.
"Well, he could still beat any of us here in a game of chess. It's not noticeable," the doctor assured her. "But sustained linkage with Cortana will take it's toll."
"Oh," Daxia sighed deeply.
"There is good news, however," the doctor promised. "My colleagues have been looking in to Cortana's claim that she was 'thinking clearer' when inside John's mind. We think that, with a suitable host, we could restore Cortana's thought patterns. It would, however, mean the destruction of the host's own processes."
"Keep looking in to it," Daxia commanded.
She walked through the Mordred's sweeping corridors to the bridge. Since Cortana had shown them how to make the special, Forerunner manoeuvre that made them travel faster than they would in slipspace - they had reached Galaxy 07 in a number of days. Now they floated through the strangely empty space. Perhaps it was only their imagination, but the space seemed emptier. Back in the day, the crew were sure that they would have encountered some type of other vessel.
Although, perhaps not. Paranoia isn't always unjustified.
Daxia reached the bridge and checked with the officers on duty. The Elite and the human that were working together thought nothing of the partnership. They had interacted with each other for so long.
"We should reach Earth within the day, ma'am," the Elite told her in his stuttering English.
"Thank you, Goro' Nyessh," she replied. The crew were capable, or at least, as capable as she was after seven years in captivity. Feeling useless, she returned to the Mordred's observation deck.
"Is there something you're looking for?" John asked as he found her staring out the windows.
"A recognizable star would be nice," Daxia replied.
John hesitated, unsure what to do now. She had her arms crossed over her chest, her eyes sulking in front of the space scape. He wasn't good at saying the right thing.
"All hands to their stations," a human voice reverberated through the ship. "We have a situation."
"That is not the way you were trained to do that, soldier," John mused before he and Daxia pelted through the hallways.
"What's our situation?" Daxia demanded as she entered.
"Covenant cruiser," the officer on deck nodded to the readouts. "They're not powered up - but they may be running dark."
"Or wounded," Ishe' Manatee murmured. He stood to her left, serenely watching his species' ship.
Daxia glanced up at the Elite, aware that John stood over her right shoulder, strictly disapproving.
"Master Chief?" she asked.
"Yes, Commander?" The use of her title was a warning.
"Prepare to take a team aboard that cruiser," she ordered. "Have we tried contacting them?"
"They haven't answered human or Covenant hails," the officer replied, looking to a blue Elite for conformation.
Daxia took a deep breath and nodded. "Signal them again, make them aware we are sending someone over. Master Chief, take one of the shuttles." She let him leave, feeling apprehensive.
"I would recommend a Covenant member go on the team," Ishe' whispered.
Daxia nodded. "The Chief will be taking a Covenant member," she replied. She was sure of it, it was tactics after all. He would probably take a blue, one of the younger Elites. One he had faith in.
"You are concerned," Ishe' was speaking quietly. Hopefully too quiet for the crew to hear. Daxia chose not to respond.
The airlock cycled through and the Chief forced himself to relax. This was combat. He had done this a million times before.
"We're picking up no life forms on scope," Cortana said. She spoke to him alone.
Having Cortana in his mind again was making him edgy. Daxia hadn't revealed the results of the medical scans, which meant there had to be something wrong. Either that, or Daxia was prepared to accept the consequences of her commands.
"Looks like nobody's home." It was Lilo' Maya. The Elite, who would have been blue, had he worn armour, lifted his head to sniff the air. Maya was one of a kind, attaching to the lifestyle of humanity and excelling. His grey, leathery skin rippled in anticipation. Maya was one of the only aliens who could truly count a human as his 'friend'.
The other exception would be Ishe' Manatee and Daxia Ring. It was not something the Master Chief liked thinking about.
"Don't tempt fate," muttered a marine. "Or something's gonna happen." A few others chuckled at his pessimism. Slowly, they crept forward. Long, plush corridors were darkened and they had long since fallen into misuse.
"This is interesting," Cortana spoke aloud. "There are pathogens in the air we didn't find in our initial scans."
The Chief was glad of his suit, but he was aware that some other marines were panicking.
"What kind of pathogens?" It was Daxia. The radio crackled a little. Space dust, most likely.
As Daxia and Cortana battered the scans back and forth, the Chief stepped closer to a set of pipes. The tiny flashlight on his gun played on the metal tubing. He reached out and touched the dust, the thick layer over the entire ship.
"Get out." Daxia was suddenly sharp.
"Yeah . . ." The Chief realized she had been watching through his suit's cameras. She had seen the dust - and come to the same conclusion she had. "Cycle the airlock!" he snapped at the marines and Elite. He waited until they were all safe, before he turned back to the ship.
Back on the Mordred, Daxia switched the feed from his suit to a private monitor. Ishe' stood over her shoulder, watching the screen impassively.
The Chief stalked through the corridors of the ship, finally stumbling upon what he was looking for.
"The dust . . ." Cortana whispered.
"Was Covenant." Daxia's voice was weary. "One helluva radiation blast."
"We always theorized that this was how the rings would work," Cortana tried to be cool and analytical, but her mind was racing. It threatened to overcome her. "Which means the rings had a much wider range than we had anticipated."
"The shockwave travelled," was the Commander's deduction. "It travelled . . . but did not kill instantly."
"No." The Chief emerged into the bridge and had to shut his eyes. "The air-filters sent dust through the ship. Most of the bodies remained here though." The Chief walked through the bone dry skeletons and found what he had been looking for. An inert infection form.
"It's dead," he claimed. He poked it with the butt of his rifle and turned from the room. "We'll overload the reactor core, just in case."
"The medics ran an analysis of the pathogen's," Daxia was saying. "Usual Covenant bacteria. Nothing to worry about."
"But it was alive," Cortana reasoned.
"Which means other Covies have been on the ship," Manatee agreed.
"And left." The Chief finished overloading the reactor and headed to the dropship. The airlock cycled through and the pilot sped him back to the Mordred. There, they left at high speed - escaping the reactor's shockwave.
Daxia was once more in the medics bay, listening to the gentle machinery monitoring John's bio-rhythms. The Doctor smiled reassuringly at her.
"This is just routine. He's fine."
"Did the team show any adverse effects from the pathogens?" Daxia asked.
The Doctor laughed. "No. I told you, they were something we have already acclimatized to. I analysed the dust the Chief brought back too. It's just decomposition. Nothing to be concerned about. The pathogens are a good sign, they show that something survived the Halo blast." The Doctor rambled on, but Daxia switched off. John was sitting on the cot, patiently waiting out the tests. The chip that held Cortana lay on the bed opposite him, along with all his armour.
Uneasily, Daxia left the medical bay and returned to the bridge. Their course was the colonized Halo.
"ETA, two days." Goro' Nyessh lifted his blind head to regard her. "I hope it still there."
Daxia was pretty sure it was. And that something was surviving on it. What that something was, she did not know.